Posts Tagged ‘Iowa’

I- O- Wah. Yes, ” it’s a beautiful name when you say it like we say it back home.”

My daughter recently sent an email suggesting that she was confused about an article she had read from an Iowa newspaper (ours). The article speaks to the issue of rural Iowa and its lost citizens. She was unsure whether the citizens, perhaps more than likely, the older citizens, were indeed hopelessly lost, wandering about aimlessly and in immediate danger or whether there was an actual loss of rural citizens and if so what happened to them and was there anything she could do to help.

Thus, as a responsible Father, I decided to address the issue for her and see if I could provide some clarification. Of course, my research would start in the most logical place, my own neighborhood, and then beyond. A quick count of our block and surrounding blocks resulted in the conclusion that we do have many missing residents from the time that Daughter Julie remembered. My recollection is that of the 10 nearest homes, there would have been anywhere from three to eight per household with many children playing happily throughout the area. In those same 10 nearest homes now, a count reveals that there are only two homes with more than two people and that the majority have only one person living within, and there are practically no children playing happily in the area. So the missing residents appear to be children.

The next effort was to determine whether there were people wandering about, lost and helpless. Indeed, while out on my morning walk, there were numerous Seniors sometimes with the aid of an apparent “guide dog” wandering throughout the park and on the streets with seemingly no real destination in mind. I, myself, actually was stopped only twice by passing cars, and was asked if I were lost and did I need a ride? In reality, I knew exactly where I was, within a close estimate, and where I hoped to end up.

Anyway, all of these observations did not seem to be much different than what I have been used to seeing for several years. While the missing children is a worry, there may be an explanation. A trip to the grocery store’s milk section indicated that there were no more than the usual number of missing children shown on the milk cartons. Also, there have not been an excessive number of “Amber Alerts” for missing or endangered children recently. Thus, it is concluded that the missing children may have grown up and gone to Texas or Florida. Incidentally, if you are missing people in Texas, please check San Antonio. UT is playing Memphis in the NCAA Tournament and they may have gone there. (That would be as of Sunday, March 30, 2008.)

So, our problem appears to be more of a loss of rural residents rather than “lost” rural residents. A somewhat historical study indicates that this has been going on for some time. As a high school student in the 1940’s, I remember Ringgold County Iowa had 10 High Schools in 10 towns within the county. A past look at the same county would show that prior to that, some five or six towns had already disappeared. Knowlton, Watterson, Caledonia, Lesanville, and others sometimes appeared on road maps but in reality were nothing but a cornfield (what else?). Today, there are only two High Schools remaining with one on death watch. Of the 10 towns, only the county seat has over 1000 people, and probably only three or four have a population of more than 100. The average farm size would be about 10 times or more larger than that in the 1940’s and would require no more labor, so many farmers had to leave the farms. It is assumed they moved to the cities. They may have gone to Kansas City where basketball tournaments are also sometimes held.

So, not only have we lost farmers, but we appear to be losing whole towns that no longer exist because there are no farmers to support them. Over 900 High Schools in Iowa in the 40’s, now number 300 plus. The loss of the school will eventually result in the loss of the town in many cases.

As a teacher, in the 1970’s, I recall reading an article about “The Dakotization of the state of Iowa.” The premise was that Iowa would someday look like North or South Dakota, with its 50 miles or more between communities. It’s a process that may or may not come about, but we appear to be heading in that direction. I do not believe we will lose the entire state, and thus far, even though we are losing whole towns, we have not yet lost any counties. However, those snobs in Northern Iowa often insist that the two southern tiers of counties in Iowa, should be ceded to Missouri. Then, they insist, both states would be better off. Thanks a lot. In addition, some think that we could well do with a lot fewer counties inasmuch as the county court houses were established with the idea of only being no more than an hour or two away by horse and buggy from each resident (at least those that weren’t yet “lost”). Since the court house is now no more than about 10 minutes away by automobile from any citizen in Iowa, the idea would be that we could put the court house an hour away and we would eliminate lots of county court houses and the need for all of our 99 counties. This would eliminate lots of duplications and jobs, be more efficient, and also would speed up the disturbing loss of rural farms and towns. Come to think of it, we might then really have a lot of “lost” wandering souls seeking a place to go as well as a loss of population. I sure hope this answers your concerns, Julie. Thanks for asking.

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Or just, “Corn and Other Stuff”.

I’m an Iowan, but haven’t always wished I was one. I’m not a farmer, but being an Iowan, you aren’t far from the farm. And you’ve got to believe in the beauty of a broad field of tall, deep green, waving corn plants. Up close, there is nothing quite like a filled out foot long golden ear of corn with row after row of symmetrical kernels just waiting to do their thing. That being, thousands of tasks with new ones created almost every day. I read that of 10,000 items for sale in a grocery store, at least 2,500 of them contain corn in some form or another. It’s used in inummerable ways other than food. Of course we eat it in every imaginable way, nearly all of them quite good, except for hominy. Hominy brings unpleasant childhood memories when I was instructed to clean up my plate and the following disagreement with my Dad when I was unable to do so. Otherwise, all of my experiences with corn, in addition to the pleasant esoteric eye appealing aspects, have been good, up to the present.

Now, being an Iowan, I do not wish to bring down the wrath of any farmer, (I love ’em all) for suggesting that there is something wrong with the latest development, that being the use of corn as a renewable source of energy. Bless them, they deserve the best that high prices have produced. It’s quite obvious however, that prices have been inflated because of the subsidies associated with the production of ethanol. In addition, new problems of shortages for the other needs and uses of corn seriously threaten the economy. We are at least 25-50 years behind in the development of alternative energy. Corn gas works, but it must be shown that it can compete with ethanol produced from other crops, and other methods, without favored subsidies. In addition, it must not deter our efforts to develop other more efficient solutions to the energy crisis the world faces. Corn is needed and the farmer deserves to be fairly compensated for his financial and physical investment. However, I remain unconvinced that energy from corn is practical, efficient, or necessary. I cannot fail to mention the connection this issue has with the political scene.

Iowa with its unique position in being the first caucus state in the political process, certainly flaunts the use of corn as the answer to the nations energy needs. Whether the firstness of the Iowa Caucus is fair or not (I doubt if it is) can be debated another time. But one can’t fail to see what has happened in this particular year. With the possibility of making some errors in this quickly written blog, I believe that both Clinton and Obama failed to support farm legislation enabling subsidies in previous years. But lo and behold, after becoming candidates along with the other 8 to 10 candidates, ethanol as a renewable energy became an accepted issue as they campaigned across the state. Likewise on the Republican side, with the notable exception of one. Did anyone notice that John McCain failed to campaign in Iowa except for a one day visit to the Iowa State Fair and an appearance or two for news interviews. Not one McCain TV or newspaper ad. Consequently he finished somewhere way down the list. Why? He made it very clear he did not favor subsidies for ethanol. He did not oppose its use, so long as it competed fairly and without subsidy. He knew a campaign in the cornfields would be a waste of time. He quickly regained footing in New Hampshire where corn farming was not an issue. The man remains for the most part, a straight shooter, and one who does not campaign on the basis of what the polls ask. He is what he is, and that includes being old and capable of confusing Al-Qaeda, and Terrorists. (darned if they don’t almost seem the same to me too.) Being a Democrat, I am unsure that I would welcome another four years of a Republican administration.

Clinton and Obama appear at this time to be trying to destroy each other and the media contributes with its largely meaningless “gotcha” reporting. And the media appears bent on presenting McCain as a doddering, absent minded, too old for President candidate. Either Clinton or Obama, if elected would be a change and a change would be welcome (at least for awhile). The first woman President (far too long in coming), or the first Black President (far too long in coming) most likely would be welcome among most other nations in the world. I fail to see how either would be able to unify our nation, or reach across the so-called aisle, within. Nor do I see how any right wing Republican could bring anything together. McCain has appeared as first an American and then a Republican and has not found favor with that right wing and that’s a plus for me.

The Democrats had a candidate in Joe Biden who was first an American and then a Democrat and one who held that sometimes a campaign was worth losing to uphold your values and beliefs. That obviously did not carry the day with the Democrats. It just might make a good ticket, even if it will never happen. Did I mention that I wrote both of their names in for President and Vice President in 2004. (probably more than a few times) and just might do it again. I very much liked the Lincoln approach. He had a Democrat Vice President from the South no less, and named his staunchest critics and enemies within his own party to the highest cabinet positions. I don’t imply that Clinton or Obama are not good Americans. One or the other will most likely be the President and I will be a loyal American supporter. (Just had to strike a blow for Gray Power).

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